Kentucky Derby (G1) champion Nyquist, last seen finishing third in the Preakness (G1), is gearing up for a return to action in Monmouth Park’s $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) on July 31. The 1 1/8-mile test is expected to attract fellow Derby rivals Gun Runner (third) and Brody’s Cause (seventh).

Nyquist missed the Belmont (G1) after exiting the Preakness with a fever, but appears to be showing his old sparkle in his training in Southern California. The Reddam Racing colorbearer turned in three solid works at Santa Anita, capped by a bullet five furlongs in :59 on July 11, and subsequently set up shop at his summer home at Del Mar.

On Sunday, Nyquist posted his first work at the seaside track when covering five furlongs in 1:02. The Doug O’Neill trainee took quite a hold early for exercise rider Jonny Garcia, who got him to settle into stride on the backstretch. Picking up nicely rounding the far turn, he readily overtook workmate Snappy Jack at the top of the stretch and drew well clear.

“We’re very happy,” O’Neill said. “He basically two-minute licked, galloped out good and looks well.”

Nyquist remained undefeated through the Derby. His sequence of major victories included the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), clinching an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old colt; the February 15 San Vicente (G2) over Exaggerator; and the April 2 Florida Derby (G1), where he left Mohaymen back in fourth.

Favored at 2-1 in the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist drove to a 1 1/4-length victory from the late-running Exaggerator. He headed into the Preakness riding a wave of Triple Crown hopes, only to get caught up in a speed duel in the slop and finished third to familiar foe Exaggerator.

Gun Runner has raced once since his third-place effort in the Kentucky Derby, romping in the June 18 Matt Winn (G3) – also at Churchill Downs – in stakes-record time. Previously the winner of the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, Gun Runner is currently based with trainer Steve Asmussen’s string at Saratoga. He’s scheduled to work at the Spa Monday or Tuesday.

The Dale Romans-trained Brody’s Cause has saved his best races for Keeneland, where he’s turned the Breeders’ Futurity (G1)/Blue Grass (G1) double. Seventh in the Kentucky Derby and most recently sixth in the Belmont, he drilled five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 1/5 at Churchill July 9.

Among those likely to face the Derby trio in the Haskell are Bob Baffert’s up-and-coming American Freedom, successful in the Iowa Derby (G3) and Sir Barton; Long Branch winner No Distortion from the Larry Jones barn; Sunny Ridge, the Withers (G3) hero who hasn’t raced since his fourth in the March 5 Gotham (G3); and Pegasus (G3) third Awesome Slew.

Nyquist photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography